Church in the Shallow End (The Other Side of the Struggle)
Have you faced it—whatever it is?
Have you faced it—whatever it is?
Lathan Craft (01:29):
Well, good morning, beloved. I am here with Andrew Bauman and Andrew, one of your newest books, which I read a couple chapters of was Stumbling Towards Wholeness. I'd love for you to tell us about the passion behind writing that book. What was your journey prior to writing this book?
Andrew Bauman (01:43):
Yeah, thanks for having me. For me, I wanted to make sense of the intersections of theology and psychology. Working with clients as a therapist I wanted to find something that they could hang onto and what actually change deep transformative change looks like. And I found this story of the prodigal son to be incompletely compelling, looking at it through new lenses. And that was kind of the start of writing this book. And it took about three years, a lot of blood, a lot of tears, a lot of sweat to write.
Lathan Craft (02:25):
Yeah. And one of the most common misconceptions in life is counseling. I mean, a lot of people will think if you go to counseling, it means you're broken or you're weird and you yourself you're therapist. And so can you clear the confusion on what counseling is, and the benefits of it and what it just creates.
Andrew Bauman (02:44):
Yeah, for me, it feels like a place where full authenticity can come out where we can actually be our true selves without all the noise. I think of church and I used to be a pastor and there's just this pressure to be somebody that I necessarily wasn't. To be perfect, to just not be my true, in a sense, part of me has deep darkness in me and deep glory they're together, and I want to be fully human. And so the therapy room can be a place without judgment, and to just fully just kind of to bleed with a caring presence of someone who can bear witness to your suffering and to your joy.
Lathan Craft (03:39):
You talked about being a pastor before, what was that transition like? What made you go straight into counseling? What was that [crosstalk 00:03:46].
Andrew Bauman (03:47):
Yeah, I think it was the fact I loved the people part. I loved the teaching. I worked with some of my best friends. It was a really good situation, but it just didn't quite feel right. I don't think I could be as honest as I wanted to be. My history with 13 years of pornography addiction, wrestling with God, wrestling with doubt, I just felt like it was too clean and I had suffered too much already at this point and I just felt I needed something that was a better fit. And now I feel like I'm on the front lines of battling good and evil every day and I love it.
Lathan Craft (04:28):
Did that involve like a complete different education change or had you already had some [crosstalk 00:04:33]
Andrew Bauman (04:33):
Yeah, I had got an undergraduate degree in Bible and religion, and then I went ahead and went on to get a master's degree from Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. So I continued as a seminary and yet I kind of went in a little different direction.
You just talked briefly about a 13 year battle with pornography and you have a book called The Pop Psychology of Porn, which is a much needed elephant in the room, especially in the church pornography is just not talked about. So can you talk about the why behind that book as well?
Andrew Bauman (05:09):
Yeah. Yeah, for me, as I was going through my own healing and 12 years of sobriety from pornography, realizing the conversation in the church has been historically shallow. It's based on morals, right? Don't don't do it. It's bad. Well, that's not enough. That's not actually helpful. And so the idea of like, how can we begin to have a deeper conversation around sexualizing pain around what do we do with our woundedness, around blessing our stories that led us to want to numb out that led us to want to escape. And so that was kind of why I wanted to write this. And it's just a little book full of essays of talking about pornography in a much deeper, I feel like, much more holistic honoring way and how we can actually heal and honor our bodies and honor those we objectify.
Lathan Craft (06:19):
You talked a lot about, and just now the idea of the story and the wounds causing you to escape right now. Have you received feedback of people who were like, "Man, this is real. And I didn't realize that." Or because a lot of men and women both are just thinking it's just an addiction [crosstalk 00:06:37] ...where it's coming from, but actually it's coming from deep wounds.
Andrew Bauman (06:40):
Yeah, exactly. Yep. Definitely. Yeah, people are definitely connecting to looking deeper in to see the why behind it. For me, my parents separated when I was about eight. We didn't even know what was going on. My mom left, we were going on vacation to North Carolina and we just didn't go back to Florida where my dad lived. So everything was quiet, nobody talked openly. And so fast forward a few years later, internet becomes a thing, dial up internet in the room and [crosstalk 00:07:15] able to find pornography, instantly, it does something to my heart. It settles an anxiety inside of me coming from this deep woundedness of my parents' separation and no care around it. It immediately gives me some reprieve from my pain. Which then I begin to develop what I talk about in The Psychology of Porn book, a pornographic style of relating.
Andrew Bauman (07:44):
So I begin to relate pornographically to the world, because porn becomes my primary teacher of my sexuality and my style of relating, right? So, in my early teen years to then begin to, so I begin to relate to women in a hyper-sexualized way and begin to objectify them, which obviously makes me relating to women having healthy relationships incredibly difficult. A lot of pain comes out of that until about 15 years ago, I ended up nearly committing suicide in a psychiatric ward. And that was kind of the beginning of my redemption after a deep crucifixion.
Lathan Craft (08:35):
For those that are struggling with pornography that are battling that, I love that you said the pornographic perspective, pornographic reality. What would you say to those people right now who are struggling with pornography?
Yeah. Do the work. Go in deep. Something is wrong with you, right, in that sense. You are not dark, but you do need help. You do need to address this head on. You do need to get good resources, obviously my work and on my website, Andrew J. Bauman, I got tons of resources, the book Unwanted by Jay Stringers. Amazing. You got to dive into quality stuff, but there's just so much toxic material, just how to manage behavior, how to just bounce your eyes. Like, no, we need to change our relationship to beauty. We need to address that we objectify andn devour beauty, we need to address the deep sexism we have towards women. The deep hatred. We need to address our mother wounds it's much deeper than that, but it's possible. It's possible to change.
Lathan Craft (09:52):
You've dealt with a lot of things that aren't commonly communicated in the church, as far as what you mentioned a couple of minutes ago about trying to commit suicide about pornography, about the idea of settling toward wholeness when people just don't really understand that concept inside the walls of the church. Did you, I'm sorry, specifically regarding depression did you feel that tension as a pastor or was this before pastoral?
Andrew Bauman (10:19):
Yeah, I think I've always, because of my untold story in my unhealed wounds, it was always in me. It just wasn't necessarily invited to the surface. So I think that was part of that disconnect I felt within being a minister of not being my true self. And so how do we begin to create a more honest dialogue? 50% of pastors have some type of relationship to pornography, 50. One out of two, that's wild, right? And so it's like, how do we begin to create a more honest, fully living in truth with all that we are and making peace with all that we are, the darkness and the light, and that's what I'm so deeply passionate about. That's what I'm so deeply passionate about living in truth, because God is truth and the more we live in truth, the more we experience God.
Lathan Craft (11:20):
You just mentioned inviting yourself, inviting that your wounds, your truest self to the conversation. What does that look like for somebody that doesn't know what their true self may be because they've hid it in shame or guilt or fear [crosstalk 00:11:33] ...what it's like to invite that real self in?
Andrew Bauman (11:36):
Yeah, it can be very scary. Right? Because we've lived with, many of us, especially in the church have lived with this mask. What does it mean to address 20 year old wounds of sexual abuse? Of addiction? I remember for me, I'm literally leading a conference with Dr. Allinder around sexual abuse and he has us writing our own stories of sexual abuse and all of a sudden and I had already been practicing therapy at this point as a therapist, but all of a sudden I had this memory pop into my mind of my own sexual abuse.
Lathan Craft (12:14): Wow.
Andrew Bauman (12:14):
It had been 25 years and had blocked it out of my memory and I was a sexual abuse therapist. So, the memory works like that, where it blocks certain things out to help us survive. And so we got to begin to start diving in. Now there's no way I'm going to remember exactly the scene, but will you give yourself permission to not just take a photograph, right. It's not going to be a photograph, but an impressionistic painting of the scene, give yourself freedom to, what do you think could have happened? And really just start writing that out, writing out your story, telling it to a trusted friend, to a therapist, and really dive in to some of the deepest fears, some of the monsters in your story, because the only way to resurrection is through crucifixion. And we have to follow in the footsteps of Jesus into our own death so that we can receive new life.
Lathan Craft (13:19):
And that's obviously biblical and with Christy, your wife's book, about The Theology of the Womb, she hints towards this idea as well of crucifixion of suffering, crucifixion, resurrection. What was a practical way that we can understand, and we can begin to crucify so that we can be resurrected?
Andrew Bauman (13:41):
To me, it comes through grief. It comes through honoring your story, grieving what was lost, grieving all the death. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world full of heartache. Will you honor the heartache? This past week, my father passed away, unexpectedly. Our relationship was full of, I write about it and Stumbling Towards Wholeness, but just full of complexity and heartache and disappointment. And so I went down to Florida and I had to face his body. I had to face it. My siblings didn't feel the need to, and yet I felt like I had to.
Andrew Bauman (14:26):
To say goodbye, I had to sit with his body. And it was one of the hardest things that I did. I wrote about it on my website, but basically facing that and just wailing, wailing in the thought of like, I'm sitting with a familiar stranger and I'm grieving all that was not. I'm grieving a lot of what we did not have, but I left there, and I'm able to function. I'm able to go back to work. I'm able to do the work that I love because I bled and I honored my father and I honored myself with deep heartache.
Lathan Craft (15:16):
And there's a beauty to that, of getting closure of, I mean, for me and my story, I was abused by my stepdad. So, when he passed, I remember this feeling of like, "Whoa, this is weird. This is strange to imagine the world without him in it." But it wasn't until I faced that reality. It wasn't until I faced head on, although I didn't get to see his body, which I'm sure it would have been whole, another level of grief and confusion, and mourning and all those things. But do you feel that you would not have had closure until you did that?
Andrew Bauman (15:55):
Yeah. Over the years of really honoring grief and the loss of my first son, which we wrote about in our book and our film, Brave Lament, I've learned, sadly, I've become familiar with grief. I've become an expert in what my body needs. I'm learning to listen to my body and follow it. And so when it came to me of I'm in Seattle, he's in Florida, and I get this news and I'm like, "I have to go as soon as possible. I have to be with his body." And I just like, "Crap." I didn't want to. I don't want to feel pain. I don't want to hurt, but I knew that's what I needed to do for my process. And our body, god lives in our body. As we honor our body, listen to our body, we can follow God more fully.
And in your book, Stumbling Towards Wholeness, you talked about the prodigal son, which you mentioned earlier, about this idea of stumbling towards wholeness is living in the life of the product? Can you flesh that out for us?
Andrew Bauman (17:02):
Yeah, basically I splice it up into three main realms and we are all three characters of the story. I am the prodigal, I am the runaway, the sinner. I am also the entitled, judgemental, elder brother. And my goal is to be like the father, my goal is to embody the father towards myself, embody that kindness. And so the story of the prodigal son, the elder brother and the father is a story of us all. And each character is alive and well and constantly at work in us, moving us towards transformation. And so that's the essence of the book
Lathan Craft (17:50):
With that in mind, and a lot of people, this maybe an interesting question of [inaudible 00:17:56] but as I was reading the book, I thought about it. A lot of people will think that God is separated as like he's a different God, Old Testament, New Testament? So how would you give a story or give a description of what stumbling towards wholeness looks like in the Old Testament?
Andrew Bauman (18:13):
Yeah. That's a good question. I might need to think about that more fully, but yeah, I'm sure, I mean, there are so many stories. I mean, I want to pose that back to you. What does that look like?
Lathan Craft (18:30):
Yeah. I think the whole concept of struggling of stumbling towards wholeness, like a lot of people don't think that that prodigal son story, because they want to shame the younger brother, or they want to shame [crosstalk 00:18:42] and make him live in fear. But I think a lot of Elijah, right? Which a lot of people might not think that depression and all those things in the Bible, but Elijah was under a tree, asked God to kill him. And God just fed him and let him sleep for days on end. And sometimes that's just all we need, and grief, right? Sometimes our body is telling us like, "This is all I need." And we think that God is this, you can't be depressed, these aren't real things, but he's making Elijah whole again, which is a concept that a lot of people don't think is in the Old Testament.
Andrew Bauman (19:18):
Love it, man, I might, if you don't write that book, I might steal that and write a book about it. That's good. That's good stuff.
Lathan Craft (19:25):
In The Other Side of the Church, we do a thing called the hope holler, which is basically, and you and I have similar scars, which I would say is more fortunate, than unfortunate because we can say the me too, to each other of losing our first born, of losing our dads, dad, dad's whichever, but what would you say to those people or to anybody who just is in a valley right now? What would you say to them for a word of hope?
Andrew Bauman (19:53):
Yeah. Your scars matter, right? This stuff matters. And so for me, as I work with men and women every day was specifically with men and the journey of healthy sexuality. My scars, my shame is front and center every day, right? It's like, I don't want to be a sex therapist. I don't want to deal with my shame around pornography and objectification, but I got to use my story. And so if you are suffering, currently, what does it mean to make peace with the darkness to make peace with your death, to face it head on, to have a conversation with it, invite it into your home, have a conversation 10, 15 minutes, and then you can say, "See you later, I'll talk you later." The darkness does not get to overtake you, but you get to make peace with it. And then the beautiful part is that you actually get to dance in it. You actually get to use it. You actually get to use your story for the greater good to help others. And that's where redemption really gets to blossom in a beautiful way.
Lathan Craft (21:14):
In the psychology world, that's called role-play, right? Sitting in a room with your past, with whatever. [inaudible 00:21:22] ...was for me, when I wrote my letter to my eight year old self, it was super healing. As I was able to give him a lot of the things that I was carrying at a 25 year old man, but [crosstalk 00:21:33] almost like a boy. How would you encourage those people with the idea of role-playing outside of the therapy setting? How can they begin to have that healing right this moment?
Andrew Bauman (21:47):
Yeah. Yeah. There's lots of different ways you can engage that. One way is called left-hand writing. And so, or your dominant hand, use your dominant hand as your present day self, to write questions, to write, and then you respond with your non-dominant hand as your child, and you have a conversation, you can do it. It might feel weird at first, but just give yourself permission to just go for it, go in a room by yourself and just let it out have conversations. I wrote a poem about this. You can find it on my website, called This Man Called Me. And I basically had a conversation with my inner child and this other angry man that I was battling to become. And I don't know if we have time, but I'd love to even read that poem, or prayer to end. But basically it's the conversation between that part of me, that younger part of me and that other part of me that's battling for supremacy over my life. And so that helped me survive is writing poetry writing just to help me survive.
Lathan Craft (23:13):
And which you mentioned andrewjbauman.com as your website, and I really want you to read that poem here in a second to close us out, but how could we best support you? I'm going to raffle off your Stumbling Towards Wholeness when I buy that from you, but how can other people, how can we come alongside you and just support what you're doing?
Andrew Bauman (23:30):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. My wife and I run a Christian counseling center for sexual health and trauma and yeah, we have a private practice and we do a lot of intensives people fly in from all over to deal with some of this stuff. And so, yeah, just appreciate you. Buy my books and getting involved in all that we do.
Lathan Craft (23:58):
I wish it was more familiar, but there's a beauty to your story being used now in a glorification manner, through all of the things that you experienced. And especially as a pastor, which you experienced that tension of do I want to be my authentic self, or do I want to keep my paycheck? Which is a sad reality.
And then living towards going into counseling with do I want to expose myself every day to men and women who might see me differently, and you've overcome that. And you're using all of your scars to help other people's scars become known. And that is beautiful, so Andrew, would you read that poem?
Andrew Bauman (24:38):
Yes, will do. I'm trying to figure out this man called me and there are two obvious choices the way I see. Choice number one, I could let live this angry man who resides deep within my bones. He kicks and spits and ridicules and mocks you fools perched high upon his throne. This angry man has over compensated for the pain in his life, becoming the rage was the only way he could survive. He looks like he's got this crazy life figured out yet beneath his furious mask he's filled with fear, anxiety, and that little thing called self doubt. And safety holds him tight, not wanting to become like my father, it seems like this choice could be right. I'm trying to figure out this man I call me and there's two obvious choices the way I see. Choice number two, I could embrace the tender child that dances within my skin, release him to play, to dream, to imagine from within my child, feels free to be sensitive and expressive, to be gentle and not repressive.
Andrew Bauman (25:47):
He sees great beauty and has enormous hope. He runs in the rain, plays, hide and seek skips and jumps rope, mysteries and fairytales are what keeps this child alive, but to live from this choice seems foolish, and the very thing I need to survive. I need to let these two choices talk things out. It seems like as long as these two co-exists within my soul, I need to figure what this dichotomy is all about. Little boy, you must die. There's no room for you here. You represent everything that is weak, and in the real world, you can't afford to care. So go back into hiding. Here, I reign supreme you're silly games and laughter can die with your illogical dreams. Angry man, I dream because it's the blood in our veins. I laugh, play, and dance to keep us sane. My expressions are not weakness, just a different of mite. You are wrong to think authentic manhood can only come through fight.
Andrew Bauman (26:49):
You see, I fight like hell, it's just a different type of war I'm battling for our hearts, and for us to be something more. Dreams are for children and children don't understand. They don't know the price or what it takes to be a real man. So stand up straight, look me in the eyes, it's your constant feminine ways that I despise. Stick out your chest you coward. Go lift more weights, get a hot woman and act more straight. I can't. I can't be like you. I can't let anger be my guide. I have to let my soul lead. I can no longer hide being a man is about how you love and protect, not yell and disrespect. It's about being kind and strong. Having the capacity to live deeply in the courage to suffer long. You live out of the pains of our past. You becoming a child again is the only type of freedom that'll last. Damn you, little kid, damn your hopes, damn your dreams, damn your poetry and your fantasies. I wish you strangle yourself on that jump rope instead of talking about this ridiculous hope.
Andrew Bauman (27:57):
Go suck on your thumb. Grab your sippy cup. On the way out the door, shut the hell up. I love you, angry man. And truth be said, I know you love me too. And once you let go of that insecure front, you'll have the freedom to be the real you. So try to be okay with me here because I'm not going anywhere. No matter how kind I am or how much you get pissed, we're just going to have to learn to co-exist. I want to let you know I will never give up on you, angry man. I'll never stopped trying to let our child have the upper hand. I will persist to love and to speak to you what is true, for I see a strong man who is playful, loving, responsible, imaginative in you. I will hold your anger and your rage, but I'll never stop offering you the keys to your cage. I love you angry man. I love you.
Lathan Craft (28:53):
One thing I love about Andrew is he's a fountain of information, he's a vessel of wisdom, and one thing he really said is set out to me was the more we live in truth, the more we experience God, the more we live in truth, the more we experience God, which leads us to this other church, his take home box. Which is simply a question, but hopefully a question that has feet attached to it. Who's your truth teller? Who's your truth teller? If it's true that the more we live in truth, the more we experience God, who are you telling truth to you and who is telling the truth to you? A lot of the time in church, we have this thing called the cliche accountability partner, but a lot of time in my experience, and I know your experience and a lot of people I've talked to the accountability partner don't really tell the truth to each other. So here's your truth teller.
Lathan Craft (29:55):
Who's in your life that will tell you exactly how it is and vice versa, you can tell exactly how it is to? If you don't have one, I encourage you this week to look through your phone contact lust, look through your recent text messages, juts start that conversation. Hey, can we be truth tellers meet with each other? Can we dive into reality and just talk about what it actually is because if you're not telling the truth, if you're not having the truth spoken over you, then the reality is you're probably stagnant in your faith, in your career. We need more truth. And truth with a grace bow on it, but truth indeed. Next time on The Other Side of the Church, we're going to have a really heartbreaking conversation with my friend, Davey Blackburn, as he recounts and revisits the morning from hell. We'll see you then.